For Gruijthuijsen, these modifications not only optimize the amount of natural light and allow for more exhibition space, they also serve to “unify the whole building,” he explains. “In previous years, KW’s spaces have often been divided into small and large galleries, but I wanted to remove any sense of hierarchy. Every artist we present is as important as the other, whether you’re 21 or 75, or you get 250 square meters or 400.”
Gruijthuijsen’s curatorial strategy has long been to encourage parity between artistic practices, “whether emerging, established, or obscure.” At KW, he plans to realize this goal first and foremost through an exhibition schedule focused on solo exhibitions by a diverse swath of artists, instead of concept-driven, sprawling group shows.
His inaugural shows include site-specific work by British sound artist Hanne Lippard, American conceptual artist Adam Pendleton, and South African conceptual artist Ian Wilson, all of which explore communication and its political reverberations—but through distinct lenses.
“I’m an exhibition-maker in the traditional sense, so I want to show and help actualize the projects of individual artists,” he says. “I want to give the building back to the artists, because at KW’s core, it’s a space for and by artists.”
Gruijthuijsen is bolstering this objective with several strategies that aim to bring more of the Berlin community into KW and broadcast the institution’s message well beyond its confines. For one, his team is planning to update the kunsthalle’s Café Bravo, a jewel box of a space designed by Dan Graham in 1999, but in need of some cosmetic work.
He and his team of curators have also conceived of an event series called The Berlin Sessions, which invites one Berlin creative to speak to another who has influenced his or her practice. The series will travel to a matrix of locations around the city, encouraging the expansion and cross-pollination of Berlin’s arts community.
“If we didn’t branch out in this way, it’d be relegated to my KW lens, or my foreign, external, non-German lens on top of it,” Gruijthuijsen, a Netherlands native, muses. “I’m happily naive, and I want to activate aspects of the program in which I’m just a sponge, learning more about Berlin and the community and its history.”